Israel: Plans for East Jerusalem assailed

Israeli authorities announced plans May 10 to build 20,000 homes in three neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Annexed by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, the area is not legally recognized as Israeli territory.

The new project will have to undergo a review that could take several years. Israeli authorities are reportedly seeking to link Israeli-occupied West Bank settlement areas in the north with another area to the south.

Experts say the population of East Jerusalem Palestinians is rising faster than that of Jews there. Palestinian leaders see East Jerusalem, populated by 200,000 Jews and 220,000 Palestinians, as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned Israel’s plan as contrary to the peace process. “The Israeli government must choose between settlements and peace,” he told Reuters. “They can not have both.”

Western Sahara: South African communists express solidarity

“Our own freedom as South Africa shall remain incomplete if Western Sahara remains a colony,” according to the South African Communist Party (SACP). A delegation from the SACP visited there recently, issuing a report.

Several months ago, the SACP initiated a campaign of solidarity with the Sahrawi people. Noting that the Polisario Front, the political arm of the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, had contributed to the anti-apartheid struggle, the report recalls that Morocco invaded Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975.

The delegation’s hosts pointed out that the situation stalemated after the Polisario Front liberated part of Western Sahara. Morocco persists in refusing to carry out a referendum on independence as ordered by the United Nations in 1991.

Presently, 180,000 Sahrawi people live in Algerian refugee camps, jobless and dependent for food on international donations. Sahrawi people living in Moroccan- occupied territories have long experienced police repression and rigid control over movement, association and expression.

Chile: Death of a forest worker

On May 3, police moved in against 3,000 lumber workers blocking a plant in southern Chile owned by the Arauco Forests Company. Their bullets killed dispatcher Rodrigo Cisternas Fernández, 26, and wounded 16 other strikers.

Demonstrations broke out in Santiago and Concepcion. President Michelle Bachelet condemned the killing. At Cisternas’ burial, attended by 15,000 people, the forest workers’ union president, Pascual Sagredo, predicted, “Thousands of plain, humble workers in the province of Arauco will rise up,” according to Visiones Alternativas.

Negotiations between the union and the company, mediated by Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati, had been going on for two months, but the company quickly agreed to a 65,000 pesos ($120) per month pay hike and the inclusion of subcontracted workers in the settlement.

Communist Party head Guillermo Teillier, quoted by Crónica Digital, emphasized that extending the terms beyond a single enterprise represented a break from Pinochet-era mandates.

Italy: Citizens reject big U.S. military base

Washington’s plans to convert a U.S. military base in Vicenza, into Europe’s largest military site attracted 200,000 marching protesters last February. With vigils night and day and large tents set up at the base, opposition to base expansion has become a prime focus for the European peace movement.

Four Vicenza citizens visited Washington in early May to lobby the U.S. Congress, which has already approved half the funding for the project and will vote on the other half next October. A group of Italian parliamentarians opposing the base visited congresspersons in February.

Vicenza, population 100,000, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Citizens there have submitted an anti-base petition to Italian authorities with 10,000 signatures. Under U.S. pressure, the Italian prime minister announced his acceptance of the enlarged base in January, although construction permits have not as yet been issued.

Women have taken a lead role in protesting the base, according to envirosagainstwar.org.

India: Gov’t may limit foreign funding

The Indian government wants to regulate foreign funding of nongovernmental organizations, NGOs. A bill introduced last year, now in committee, would prohibit foreign contributions to organizations of a “political nature, not being political parties.” It would also impose new restrictions on all NGOs.

Rajesh Tandon, president of Participatory Research in Asia, asked, “Who decides what constitutes political activity?” The bill would block foreign contributions to the media and limit foreign money for NGO administrative expenses.

Maja Daruwala of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative accused the government of targeting the “people’s movements” that promote “diversity and dissent.”

One activist told Inter Press Service, “In comparison to the tens of billions of U.S. dollars that are flowing into India’s corporate sector,” money received by the voluntary sector is “peanuts.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @megalink.net).

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